Reviews of the 2019 CSK Author Award winners


A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919
by Claire Hartfield
Middle School, High School    Clarion    196 pp.    g
1/18    978-0-544-78513-7    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-328-69904-6    $9.99

This readable, compelling history explores the longstanding and deeply rooted causes of the 1919 Chicago Race Riot, which left thirty-eight people dead and 537 wounded (two-thirds of the casualties were black; one-third, white). De facto segregation was woven into much of Chicago’s social fabric in the early twentieth century, including access to the public beaches. An invisible line had been drawn between the Twenty-Sixth Street and Twenty-Ninth Street beaches, resulting in an eruption of animosity and violence whenever that line was crossed. On a sweltering Sunday in July, five black youths were swimming from a raft that drifted too near the white beach when a white man began to throw rocks at the boys, striking seventeen-year-old Eugene Williams and causing him to drown. This tragedy was the catalyst for a week-long uprising that began with a brawl on the Twenty-Ninth Street Beach that Sunday afternoon and escalated into citywide unrest (“seven days of death and destruction as the city purged the rage that had been building for so long”). The first two-thirds of this book carefully unpacks the underlying factors that led to the unrest; the remainder details the events of each violence-filled day until the riots finally ended the following Saturday. Hartfield’s careful account is peppered with phrases from the time (“woe betide”; “a mighty bit better than”), subtly infusing the text with historical flavor. Meticulously chosen archival photos, documents, newspaper clippings, and quotes from multiple primary sources add authenticity. Appended with copious source notes and a thorough bibliography; index unseen. EBONI NJOKU

From the January/February 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Honor Books

Finding Langston
by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Intermediate, Middle School     Holiday     107 pp.
8/18     978-0-8234-3960-7     $16.99
e-book ed. 978-0-8234-4110-5     $16.99

When Langston’s mother dies, his father relocates the two of them from rural Alabama to the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, where they live in a cramped apartment, barely communicate with each other, and stifle their grief. It’s the 1940s; his father works long hours at a paper plant, and school is a dreadful place where Langston is bullied for being a “country boy.” Then Langston discovers the George Cleveland Hall Branch of the Chicago Public Library,  here he finds the poetry of Langston Hughes. Struck by their shared name, Langston checks out the books and hides them from kids at school and his father, reading them in brief snatches when nobody is around. Is there a connection between himself and Langston Hughes? Reading poetry becomes Langston’s way to keep his mother’s memory alive, find solace from grief, and make a friend. Written in short chapters, this crisply paced book is full of historical details of the Great Migration and the role a historic branch library played in preserving African American literary culture. “The library and Langston Hughes ’bout the only thing that kept me going without my mama,” Langston says, a sentiment that may resonate with any child who has experienced grief or loneliness, or has had a strong connection to literature. JULIE HAKIM AZZAM

From the September/October 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The Parker Inheritance
by Varian Johnson
Intermediate, Middle School    Levine/Scholastic    344 pp.    g
3/18    978-0-545-94617-9    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-545-95279-8    $10.99

In 2007 Abigail Caldwell, the first female and African American city manager for 
the town of Lambert, South Carolina, was forced to resign after covertly digging 
up the municipal tennis courts, looking for buried treasure. Now, a decade later, 
the late Abigail’s twelve-year-old granddaughter Candice is following the same arcane clues, hoping to uncover the Parker inheritance — but who was Parker? 
Johnson’s Westing Game–inspired tale is a tangled historical mystery, a satisfying multigenerational family story, and an exploration of twentieth-century (and contemporary) race and racism. Chapters alternate between the present, in which Candice grapples with making new friends, dealing with her parents’ divorce, and puzzling together information, and the past, particularly 1957, when a secret, integrated high school tennis match led to a violent racist attack. Johnson’s narrative revels in its puzzle-story elements (“She leaned back in the chair and spun in place. Maybe we’re reading this too literally. Maybe it’s more figurative. Like, if it’s a sum, maybe we should convert the clues to numbers”), and his protagonist is intelligent, endearing, and believable; scenes with her father, especially, have both humor and poignancy. Well-placed textual clues keep historical context and race relations at the front of readers’ minds — and examining those constructs, ingeniously, provides the key to solving the mystery. ELISSA GERSHOWITZ

From the March/April 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The Season of Styx Malone
by Kekla Magoon
Intermediate, Middle School    Lamb/Random    298 pp.    g
10/18    978-1-5247-1595-3    $16.99
Library ed.  978-1-5247-1596-0    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5247-1597-7    $10.99

It’s summertime, and the living is easy. At least it was before narrator Caleb and his older brother Bobby Gene make a bad deal with their nemesis, Cory, leading to four long weeks of morning chores as punishment. It looks like things are going nowhere fast — until they meet Styx Malone, a mysterious, lanky, smooth-talking teenager who adds excitement to the brothers’ otherwise humdrum summer. Living in the small town of Sutton, Indiana, Caleb and Bobby Gene are confined to play within the woods in their backyard. Caleb dreams of a chance to see the world — at least to make it to the big city of Indianapolis—and doesn’t understand his father’s stubborn insistence that they don’t need to travel anywhere outside of Sutton. (Their father’s fears for their safety, as African American young men, is mostly subtext.) Caleb doesn’t want the ordinary life that his family lives, and Styx becomes the magic ticket to escape. The boys embark on a journey that encompasses rule-breaking, laugh-out-loud humor, and nail-biting adventure, while exploring the importance of family ties and deep friendships. Spending time with Styx, Caleb, and Bobby Gene is an experience no reader will soon forget. MONIQUE HARRIS

From the September/October 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


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